Acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a fairly common affliction. It is characterized by bouts of intense heartburn or a burning sensation in the back of the throat. A lot of the time, the pain is experienced during sleep periods. This is not the case all the time, but it is common to have attacks at night.
As stated earlier, heartburn is symptomatic of GERD. If a person is having attacks of heartburn more than three times a week, acid reflux disease is a good probability for that person. Prompt attention is required to avoid serious damage to the lining of the esophagus or the formation of ulcers both in the stomach and in the esophagus.
There are many drugs that can be used to treat acid reflux disease. You have probably heard of Zantac 75, Prilosec OTC or Nexium. These are available at local drug stores and can help the symptoms, yet do nothing for the condition itself. They hold a small dosage that is allowable over the counter without a prescription.
In order to treat the entire condition, however, a physician’s care is recommended. Acid reflux disease is also a known cause of esophageal cancer and other related maladies. This is why you should seek a physician immediately.
Acid reflux can be treated in several ways including watching the diet, elevation during sleep and pharmaceutical therapy. There is no tie between spicy foods and GERD, but it doesn’t help. More important is the amounts of food that are eaten. When you overeat, the stomach has to produce more acid than your stomach can get rid of.
Foods that are hard to digest also can bring on attacks of GERD. Foods like peanuts, milk or dairy products and such force the stomach to, again, produce more acid than is necessary. The excess finds it’s way into the esophagus and results in a painful heartburn sensation. The attacks feel like heartburn but much more intense and can last for hours at a time.
To avoid attacks during sleep periods, it is common to elevate the head slightly at bedtime. This keeps the throat area higher and gravity is employed to keep the acid in the stomach. What happens during sleep is that the valve between the stomach and the esophagus relaxes (or possibly is weak) and allows stomach contents to enter the esophagus and up to the throat. This is when you feel the heartburn sensation mentioned earlier.
The causes of GERD are still under research, but there are two basic situations in the disease. Either the stomach simply produces too much acid or the stomach cannot process a normal amount of acid. Either way, the effect is the same.
So if you are experiencing heartburn more than three times a week or your heartburn is excessively painful, consult a physician immediately. If you do have GERD, you are running the risk of other more serious conditions like stomach cancer, esophageal cancer and ulcers all along the digestive tract. GERD has been tied to these diseases and this is a real danger.